Mehlis Report on the Hariri assassination II: Second REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION COMMISSION ESTABLISHED PURSUANT TO SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1595 (2005) - December 10, 2005
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On February 14, 2005, former Lebanese Premiere Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a huge bomb explosion in Beirut. Suspicion fell on the Syrians, who had occupied Lebanon for 30 years, and who were refusing to leave despite UN Security Council Resolution 1559 which called for Syrian withdrawal. Hariri was a very wealthy man who had used his wealth to rebuild Lebanon after the Lebanese civil war. Initially he cooperated with the Syrian occupiers, but he had become an opponent of continued Syrian occupation. A Mr Abu Adass from an unknown group called al nasra wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham took "credit" for the assassination, but nobody had ever heard of this group and the man's story was not believable. It appeared to be part of a plot to turn suspicion away from Syria.
Anti-Zionists blamed Israel. However, it seemed that the explosion, which took place in downtown Beirut in the midst of a well-protected motorcade, could not have been done without the collusion of Lebanese and Syrian authorities. It would be difficult to acquire and conceal large quantities of explosives under the watchful eyes of Syrian intelligence. Following extensive demonstrations in Lebanon, the Syrian government agreed to end the occupation of Lebanon. However, it was apparent that number of Syrian intelligence personnel remained in Lebanon. A number of prominent Lebanese personalities whose opinions and positions were inconvenient for the Syrian government were killed in various explosions. A large number of armed Palestinians belonging to groups sympathetic to Syria infiltrated the Lebanese refugee camps, causing alarm in the Lebanese government and in the Palestinian National Authority. Lebanese army tanks surrounded the camps.
The UN was called upon to investigate and began doing so a relatively long time after the fact, establishing UNIIIC - The UN Independent Investigative Commission. As expected, much of the evidence was obscured or removed from the seen. Nonetheless, the preliminary report of investigator Detlev Mehlis was able to reach some tentative conclusions regarding Syrian involvement in the assassination. Mehlis asked for an extension, until December. He has now recommended an additional extension and resigned his commission. Meanwhile, the Syrians have reportedly burned every document associated with the assassination of Hariri. They also staged a televised recantation of testimony by one of the witnesses, a Mr Husam Taher Husam. The UNIIIC report states that apparently Mr. Hussam's relatives were arrested and threatened in order to produce the recantation. As the report was being released, a prominent Lebanese newspaper editor, Gebran Tueni, whose opposition to Syria was outspoken, was murdered in other assassination.
The current report reinforces the evidence of the first report, but asks for more time to complete the investigation. The report found that a high Syrian official had ensured that pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon had a plentiful supply of weapons to begin violence as a distraction from any outcry caused by the murder of Hariri. Two vital witnesses connected with the disappearance of Mr Addas have also disappeared into Syria apparently, and the Syrians refuse to produce them, according to the report. Syria has also failed to produce vital documents requested by the commission.
Key points of the report:
-- UNIIC has been approached by a number of witnesses
with potentially critical information about the assassination ... Given that their information is still in the process
of being evaluated and the need to protect their identities to ensure their safety, this report does not detail
the information they have provided.
-- In late October 2005, the commission was approached by another new witness, who has submitted a comprehensive and coherent statement regarding plans to assassinate Mr. Hariri. The witness has been assessed to be credible and the information he has submitted to be reliable. The information is detailed and has undergone cross-checking measures, which, so far, have confirmed the information in the statement. -- The statement from the witness strengthens the evidence confirmed to date against the Lebanese officers in custody, as well as high-ranked Syrian officers.
-- Five Syrian officials were interviewed as suspects. After the interviews, the interviewees signed their statements and DNA samples were taken from them. Statements made by two of the suspects indicated that all Syrian intelligence documents concerning Lebanon had been burned. It was also confirmed ... that no material regarding the assassination of Mr. Hariri had been found in Syrian intelligence archives.
-- A Syrian judicial commission was set up to carry out its own investigation into the Hariri case ... It remains to be seen if a substantive law enforcement investigation will be carried out to its full extent. Moreover, it is only the actual and continuous responsiveness of the Syrian authorities that will remove any doubts about Syrian substantive movement in the case.
-- It is worth, noting that, despite their reluctance and procrastination, the Syrian authorities did make available for questioning the five Syrian officials that the commission had summoned ... As this is the beginning of a long-awaited process, it is up to the Syrian authorities to be more forthcoming in order to make headway in a process that will be most probably a long one if it is judged against the pace of progress to date.
-- Until now, the commission has made steady progress on the Lebanese track. It remains to be matched on the Syrian track. For that reason, it is the commission's view that Syria should pursue its own investigation in an earnest and professional manner and respond to the commission in a timely way, fully and unconditionally, before it is determined whether it is complying in full with the provisions of (UN) resolution 1636 (demanding full cooperation).
-- Since the release of the previous report, the identity of one... previously confidential source has been disclosed. That source, Mr. Hussam Taher Hussam, has recently appeared on Syrian television withdrawing his prior testimony to UNIIIC and claiming that his testimony, which implicated high-level Syrian officials in the assassination, had been coerced ... The commission has learned that, before his current trip to Syria, Mr. Hussam had provided to close friends an account of the assassination that was similar to the account he provided to UNIIC. The commission has also received credible evidence that, prior to Mr. Hussam's recent public recantation of his statement to UNIIC, Syrian officials had arrested and threatened some of Mr. Hussam's close relatives in Syria. Preliminary investigation leads to a conclusion that Mr. Hussam is being manipulated by the Syrian authorities, raising serious questions about whether the Syrian Judicial Commission is committed to conducting an independent, transparent and professional investigation into this crime.
-- The commission relies on the full and unconditional cooperation of the Syrian authorities in the next period of its enquiries, so that all aspects of the case under investigation may be ascertained.
PROGRESS IN THE INVESTIGATION:
-- From 7 October to 10 December 2005, 52 witness statements, 69 investigators' notes and eight suspect statements were issued ... A total of 37,000 pages of documents have been entered into the case file. Fourteen
investigators from 10 different member states have been involved in the commission's investigative work, as well as a number of external experts.
-- To date, UNIIC has interviewed and obtained the
statements of 19 suspects. Analysts are in the process of reviewing these statements, focusing on any significant issues
or leads that can be identified, for the purpose of cross-checking those issues that can be identified. One of the
specific areas of focus is information related to the planning of the assassination, including locations, dates, times
and participants in meetings. (AFP)
The full report is currently available only in PDF - Click here to download -
(This version courtesy of Arab Electronic Mail Journal Posted here
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